The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) OpenRAN project and the O-RAN Alliance today announced a liaison agreement to ensure their alignment in developing interoperable, disaggregated and open Radio Access Network (RAN) solutions.
Since their inception, the overlapping efforts of the two consortiums led to a lot of questions about duplication of work, different specs and interface for the same functions as well as different IP licensing policies. The two groups are calling this liaison arrangement as a “new level of collaboration” for open RAN, rather than a merger. The press release stated:
With this liaison agreement O-RAN and TIP are now reaching a new level of collaboration for open RAN. The liaison allows for sharing information, referencing specifications and conducting joint testing and integration efforts.
The O-RAN Alliance was formed in February 2018 when the x-RAN Forum merged with the C-RAN Alliance. The group is focused on the development of open, intelligent, virtualized and interoperable RAN specifications. The Alliance has already created 31 specifications, with 37 demonstrations of the technology at past MWC events, global plugfests, and more than 1 000 000 lines of code released in partnership with the Linux Foundation. Operators have begun to announce network implementations.
O-RAN Alliance’s mission and focus complements TIP’s mission of deploying end-to-end disaggregated telecom infrastructure in varying environments.
TIP said it’s seen a rapid increase in demand for advanced OpenRAN trials and deployments.
- Following on the heels of its TIP Summit announcement in November 2019, Vodafone launched trials in Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is progressing with trials in the UK and Ireland.
- In Indonesia, Indosat Ooredoo and Smartfren will conduct the first OpenRAN field trials in the APAC region. Smartfren has also conducted and completed the first OpenRAN lab trial in the region.
- In Malaysia, Edotco, the tower arm of Axiata group, is collaborating with Celcom Axiata in conducting lab trials with the path to field trials. Following their announcement of TIP OpenRAN deployment in the UAE, Etisalat is starting trials of OpenRAN systems in other regions. In North America, Sprint completed its RFI evaluation and will begin trials of OpenRAN 5G NR technologies in its TIP Community Lab.
Evenstar Program to feed into OpenRAN:
Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, MTI, AceAxis, Facebook Connectivity and additional partners have unveiled the Evenstar RRU (Remote Radio Units). The Evenstar program will focus on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G/5G networks in the Open RAN ecosystem that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications.
The Evenstar program will contribute to the OpenRAN ecosystem by focusing on building general-purpose RAN reference designs for 4G and 5G networks that are aligned with 3GPP and O-RAN specifications and will help accelerate the adoption of TIP OpenRAN Project Group Solutions.
By decoupling the RRU hardware, Central Unit (CU) and Distributed Unit (DU) software, mobile network operators will have the ability to select best-of-breed components and the flexibility to deploy solutions from an increasing number of technology partners, TIP said. The intention of the Evenstar program is to contribute the proposed solution into TIP’s OpenRAN Project Group to help accelerate adoption.
“This new collaboration framework between O-RAN and TIP, two major initiatives in the area of open networking, will support our mission to re-shape the RAN industry towards open and intelligent mobile network infrastructure,” said Alex Jinsung Choi, COO of the O-RAN Alliance and SVP Strategy & Technology Innovation, Deutsche Telekom.
“Alignment on O-RAN interoperability efforts will help the industry to speed up the delivery of commercial open RAN solutions. The establishment of the first joint O-RAN Open Test and Integration Center (OTIC) with the TIP Community Lab in Berlin is a concrete step to facilitate this multi-community approach.”
“TIP’s OpenRAN solutions are an important element of our work to accelerate innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services. Across the TIP community, we are seeing increasing demand and have achieved meaningful progress with OpenRAN deployments around the world,” said Attilio Zani, Executive Director, Telecom Infra Project.
“With this collaboration framework in place, TIP and O-RAN will work together to develop interoperable 5G RAN solutions. One of our first outputs will be the release of the OpenRAN 5GNR NR Base Station Platform requirements document with normative references to the O-RAN specifications.”
“Our hope, longer term, is that this forms the ability to accelerate the solutions that are in the marketplace and drives greater adoption of Open RAN technologies across the world,” Zani added.
About O-RAN Alliance:
O-RAN Alliance is a world-wide community of more than 160 mobile operators, vendors, and research & academic institutions operating in the Radio Access Network (RAN) industry. As the RAN is an essential part of any mobile network, O-RAN Alliance’s mission is to re-shape the industry towards more intelligent, open, virtualized and fully interoperable mobile networks. The new O-RAN standards will enable a more competitive and vibrant RAN supplier ecosystem with faster innovation to improve user experience. O-RAN-compliant mobile networks will at the same time improve the efficiency of RAN deployments as well as operations by the mobile operators. To achieve this, O-RAN Alliance publishes new RAN specifications, releases open software for the RAN, and supports its members in integration and testing of their implementations.
For a short video describing O-RAN’s progress, see www.o-ran.org/videos
For more information please visit www.o-ran.org
About Telecom Infra Project:
TIP is a collaborative telecom community that is evolving the infrastructure that underpins global connectivity. TIP’s mission is to accelerate the pace of innovation in next generation telecom networks, through the design, build, test and deployment of standards-based, open and disaggregated end-to-end solutions. Over the past four years, TIP has driven substantial innovation across all elements of the network including Access, Transport, Core & Services, while spanning urban through to rural market use cases. To date, it has 13 Community Labs which test, validate and integrate solutions, embarked on field trials in Africa, Latin America, Middle East and Europe. The recently launched TIP Exchange hosts 45 products from 28 member companies.
Vodafone Moves to O-RAN:
One of those early-adopter operators of the O-RAN Alliance specs is Vodafone. In November 2019, Vodafone’s head of network strategy and architecture Santiago Tenorio announced at the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Summit in Amsterdam that Vodafone would issue a request for quotes (RFQ) for open RAN technology for its entire European footprint.
“That’s significantly more than 100,000 sites, and all the technologies are to tender — 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G,” said Tenorio. “We’ve invited the incumbent suppliers in Europe of course, but we’ve also invited the open RAN suppliers.” He didn’t sound too optimistic about the incumbent suppliers. Apparently, they hadn’t even responded to a Vodafone request for information about open 5G new radio equipment.
Mostafa Essa, an AI and data analytics distinguished engineer with Vodafone, told FierceWireless: “If you use a specific vendor for the RAN and ask him to carry some new features for something you are needing that is impacting your customers, they have to go back to their R&D and build up features,” said Essa. “Then we’ll test and give feedback. Right now, by using the open RAN concept, you can build up whatever you want whenever you want. It’s not connected to vendors’ roadmaps,” he added.
Vodafone has been conducting field trials in some of its markets in Europe, including Spain, Italy and in a rural area north of London. Vodafone used Parallel Wireless for its first open RAN tests, which it conducted in Turkey and Africa.
Essa continued: “We have a lot of instability, which is to be expected in trials. Right now, we are in the building phase. When you roll out this technology, sometimes you can get a lot of dropped calls and so on. But it’s the same as working with the vendors…..who are building systems with their own closed-source software.”